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Calexico's older residents remember when

May 17, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Model-T Fords. Buying candy at the Bond's Corner country store. The Great Depression.

Calexico's pioneers remember.

Esperanza Leyvas, 84, remembers working for years in the fields when she was a teen. She had to cut lettuce and once had a job tying carrots together in bunches.

She didn't work in the fields after getting married but that doesn't mean the longtime Calexican stopped working.

Leyvas had 14 children and took care of two more. She's still at it, taking care of her great-great-grandchildren.

"I don't get tired," she said.

Asked about the Great Depression, Leyvas said, "We didn't feel it here."

The county's agricultural jobs helped make the impact here less than other parts of the country, she said.

Annie Burt Ybarra was born in Calexico in 1931 during one of the lowest points of the Great Depression. In 1931, more than 11 million Americans were out of work. The U.S. was no longer the promised land for many.


In the decades since, Ybarra has seen the country dynamically grow and become the world's economic superpower. Calexico has grown with it.

In fact, Burt Ybarra and her husband, Octavio Ybarra, 70, met each other while they were helping spur the economy at Calexico's JCPenny while working there as teens.

After they married and started a family here, they contributed to the foundation of Calexico.

Octavio Ybarra was on the Planning Commission and the City Council and Annie Ybarra volunteered at the Calexico Hospital.

They've never considered moving even though they have seen the best parts of Europe and Mexico.

Annie Ybarra said she couldn't leave because of Calexico's people, the friends and relatives she grew up with. One of those friends, sitting on the same Hotel De Anza bench, said the real reason the Ybarras never left is the swap meet.

Octavio Ybarra smiled.

"She's there every Wednesday," he said.

Annie Ybarra said she collects Depression-era glass and collector's plates.

Octavio Ybarra asked, "Want to know how many she's got? 10,000."

Annie Ybarra blushed a little and said, "I have a lot but I don't know exactly how many."

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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